Almond biscotti, or cantuccini, are 18th century Tuscan almond cookies, baked twice to crunchy golden-brown perfection and then dunked in a dessert wine called Vin Santo.
In Italy, any cookie “cooked twice” is considered biscotti. To them, this cookie is called cantuccini. Keeping to traditional recipes, this recipe calls for no fat or yeast and uses chopped skin-on almonds. However, against tradition, these are made with a bit of orange zest and vanilla. The Italians dunk their biscotti in wine, but , Americans seem to prefer coffee, and my family in particular likes to dip ours in hot chocolate.
To make the biscotti, combine sugar and two eggs. Whisk them together until light in color. Then mix in your orange zest and vanilla, followed by flour and baking powder. Some recipes call for an exorbitant amount of baking powder. We use only a half teaspoon because that is all you need. Anything more than a full teaspoon and your biscotti becomes dry, brittle, and crumbly. Once the mixture forms a soft dough, mix in your chopped almonds. Try to keep your almond chunks small. You will cut through them after the first bake. If the almond chunks are too large, cutting through them is difficult. You can break the biscotti or leave large holes where the almonds will pull out.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two 8″ logs and lay them side-by-side on a baking sheet. Flatten them slightly to form rectangles and put them in the oven. Two thin logs will create small biscotti. To get the long kind you see at Starbucks or in Christmas gift tubs, create one fat log instead. Keep it at 8″ long. If you want a toasty brown finish on your biscotti, brush them with a beaten egg.
Cook the biscotti low and slow. The oven should be at 325 F degrees, and they should cook for 20-25 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. You want a very slight give when you gently press on them. Once they finish cooking, take them out of the oven and let them cool for half an hour. Turn the oven off and let it cool as well. After the biscotti have had time to cool, cut them on a diagonal and separate them. Turn them sideways so their textured side faces upward.
Turn the oven to 200 F degrees. It should heat up very quickly. Put the biscotti in for 10 minutes. Then, flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes. This should dry them out enough to keep them crunchy on the outside and still fairly soft in the middle. Bake them too long, and you get biscotti that break teeth. If this happens to you though, just soak them in your favorite drink. They will get soft and it won’t matter at all.
Cool the biscotti on a rack. They will continue to dry out slightly as they sit. Keep them in an air-tight container. They will keep for a long time if dried out sufficiently, and are great to make ahead. If you want, dip them in chocolate, fill them with a different kind of nut, or add some dried fruit and spices.
By the way, we want to welcome our littlest member to the CC&TB family. A few weeks ago we were blessed with our little LJ. She came very early and had to spend a few weeks in the NICU, but now she is home and thriving. Her last weight was almost 9 lbs and she hadn’t even reached her due date yet! We are so grateful for all the nurses and doctors who took such good care of us. I don’t take enough time to truly appreciate what medical personnel do for our world. They literally saved my baby’s life. It’s something I can’t even fathom or ever repay. Even as I type this I can hear her little lips smacking as she gears up to nurse. Ah, life is good, and God is great.
Here's What You Need:
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
- 1 3/4 - 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 1/2 Cup Chopped Skin-On Almonds
- Optional: beaten egg for brushing
Here's What You Do:
- Preheat oven to 325 F Degrees. Prepare Baking Sheet with Silpat or Parchment Paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until light in color.
- Stir in zest and extracts.
- Mix in Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt until soft dough forms. If mixture is too soft, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it comes together. It will be sticky.
- Add in chopped nuts, make sure they are chopped fairly small to prevent issues during cutting.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, divide in two, and make 8" logs. For longer biscotti, keep dough in one roll, leave 8" long.
- Move to prepared baking sheet and pat them down slightly into rectangles.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch with a very slight give.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for half an hour.
- Turn oven to 200 F Degrees.
- Slice loaves diagonally across and turn biscotti on their side.
- Toast each side for 10 minutes (20 total) to dry out.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool on a rack to dry out completely. Store in an air-tight container.